Oregon Governor Tina Kotek, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, and various student representatives gathered at Faubion (a K-8 school in Northeast Portland) on Monday, Feb. 27 for a mental health roundtable. After Becerra and Kotek took a brief tour of Faubion, reporters, student representatives, government officials, and news stations packed into a small, glass room in the second story of the school. 

The discussion was centered around the mental health of students. The members of the roundtable advocated for more support for students who may be struggling with their mental health. Secretary Becerra talked about the recent establishment of the 988 suicide prevention hotline in Oregon; he also commented that prevention is the key in reducing the number of mental health related emergencies. Becerra stated, “better to prevent than to remediate.” 

Tanvi Vemulapalli, a volunteer on the YouthLine, a teen to teen crisis line and partner program to Lines for Life (who operate a 988 call center), said, “a lot of stigma exists around mental health and I strongly believe that we, the youth, have the most important voice in changing that.” 

Becerra called on the need for more funding from states to keep the recently launched 988 program going, and said that providing grants and scholarships to states could increase the number of mental health professionals in their area. The most common theme throughout the discussion session was the importance of prevention through the use of mental health facilities and pre-existing infrastructure, rather than trying to solve the problem down the line when it escalates to an emergency. Currently, Oregon House Bill HB2757 is under review by a house committee. HB2757 is a bill that, if passed, will expand funding for mental health related services, including the 988 crisis hotline. 

Governor Kotek said that her new budget includes funding for mental health workers. She reiterated that education and behavioral health were two of her priorities.

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